Thirty male patients with sexually acquired reactive arthritis (SARA) have been studied at the time of their initial presentation and thereafter. Chlamydia trachomatis was isolated from the urethral exudate of 9 (36.0%) of the 25 patients from whom urethral specimens were taken, and elevated titres of IgM antibody of C. trachomatis were detected in 11 (36.6%) of the 30 initial sera. Thirteen (43.3%) of the patients has a positive urethral culture and/or elevated titre of IgM antibody, and it is therefore suggested that 43.3% of these patients suffered an acute chlamydial infection at or near the time of the onset of their joint disease. The demonstration of 4-fold or greater rises and/or falls in IgM antibody titre (8 patients) and IgG antibody titre (6 patients) in a group of 15 men studied throughout the course of their disease strongly supports this conclusion. A positive urethral culture and/or raised titre of IgM serum antibody was also detected in 25 (50%) of 50 men with uncomplicated nongonococcal urethritis (NGU), suggesting that the prevalence of chlamydial infections in the 2 conditions is similar. Titres of IgG serum antibody to C. trachomatis were, however, significantly higher in patients with SARA than in those with NGU or other rheumatic diseases, and in healthy controls. The geometric mean titres (GMT) of IgG serum antibody in patients with SARA, NGU, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and in healthy controls were 1:47.5, 1:8.6, 1:2.2, 1;2.2, 1:3.5, and 1:1.4, respectively. These findings suggest that an exaggerated antibody response to acute infection by C. trachomatis may be an important factor in the development of SARA in some but not all patients.
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